Thursday, 26 May 2011
Richard Davis, editor of River's Edge talks about his zine, his art director, Dan Holliday, and his visual aesthetic.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you came to be involved in River's Edge.
I began independently writing and publishing in 2001, when I set up an online art magazine. This was called New Art Star and things were going ok with it for a while, but it's now sadly defunct. There were only two members of staff, me and the regular photographer. We had some regular contributors too. Since then I've been Reviews Editor at Artrocker magazine and worked at the Guardian and Sunday Times.
But all along I felt a need to set up some kind of independent publication and had a sort of nebulous idea about what that might be. I came up with a couple of names and looked around for someone to work with - and found exactly the right person in Dan Holliday. It was while working at Artrocker that I met Dan and we seemed to hit it off (although, it has to be said, Dan is an extremely nice guy and gets on with everyone). I proposed my idea to him and he was happy to get involved. I decided on River's Edge as the title and then there was no stopping us. Not until we'd got the first issue that is. Then we both stopped and got sidetracked by other things. But issue 2 is now on its way.
River's Edge proposes to "want to cover the things that are not already well-covered elsewhere". What kinds of things are you interested in covering and how are you doing this differently?
Well, we try to cover issues and subjects that might not be covered in mainstream discussion. That was always the plan. Not that we rule anything out, but that's most definitely the general ethos. The way I feel about it is that mainstream subjects, be they successful artists or books, are already well catered for. But what about the unnoticed gems, or potential gems, that may be off the beaten track?
As far as the execution of this ethos goes, that part is relatively straightforward: we all, including contributors, generally have an instinct for the neglected and the downtrodden. Or the not yet even had a chance to tread. Some of the people we focus on may go on to bigger things, but that's not our concern. These things happen. Then there are the people who remain defiantly outside the central stream, like Billy Childish.
The production quality of using hand-printing for River's Edge is counter to many zines who rely on photocopied print runs. You also have a named art director: Dan Holliday. Tell us a little about your intentions here and does this make a difference in defining what we understand zines to be?
This is also deliberate. Art and a sense of visual aesthetic will always be central to River's Edge. Dan is an exhibiting artist and printmaker and I have a fine art background. My first job in the world of the written word was working for the art writer and broadcaster Matthew Collings, as his general assistant. But aside from all this, there is also the fact that a unique visual aesthetic is something that sets River's Edge aside. And it's something we're proud of. As far as the future goes, we will not be printing all our copies of River's Edge using the silkscreen method as we did with issue #1. This was a special case (limited edition, 500 individually-numbered copies, only 50 left!). And it's hard work! Though Dan may get a little annoyed at me for pointing that out, as he did most of that hard work (I did my bit, at least one shift on the assembly line). We're looking at other methods, but we may retain the limited-run element for special editions of each issue.
In terms of defining characteristics of a zine, I'm not sure if self-printing is or should be an exclusive defining factor. Probably, it is more to do with the underlying ethos behind the endeavour, and who is actually behind it. There's no big corporation supporting River's Edge. In addition, control over content, production and distribution as well as an overriding DIY approach are probably important, I would have thought.
Can you share with us what some of your favourite zines are and tell us why?
I'm a big fan of Nutshell, which is a kind of literary journal, and is completely self-sufficient, relying on benefit gigs and contributions. We may have to go down that road ourselves.
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